Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves is calling for a fully coordinated approach in the fight against crime and violence and the illegal gun trade in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
The Prime Minister made the call in Parliament on Thursday, February 23, where he gave the assurance that “no stone will be left unturned in this regard.”
Gonsalves was at the time making a ministerial statement on illicit firearms and related criminal activities.
He pointed out that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, inclusive of assault weapons such as: M16, M14 and others, is a priority threat to citizen security in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the wider CARICOM region.
Gonsalves, who is also this country’s Minister of National Security spoke about the “persistent demand for firearms and their continued use in the commission of crimes, including homicides.”
“The demand for firearms remains high with criminal groups and also with the civilian population for personal protection,” the Prime Minister observed.
He also said that persons continue to use cargo containers to import firearms into the country.
These deadly weapons, he pointed out, come to these shores mainly from the USA and are often hidden in barrels, boxes, television sets, vehicles and other items.
The guns often come here in exchange for cocaine and marijuana, and very often transactions take place out at sea, the Prime Minister said.
As a result of its “open sesame” approach on guns and the right to bear arms, many of the weapons in the region originate in the USA, he charged.
Dr Gonsalves added that the Biden administration in the USA is now paying some attention to this matter and an expert is currently assisting the region with tracing guns.
During the ministerial statement on Thursday, the Prime Minister disclosed that a gun which was seized at Port Kingstown last year has now been traced to a crime which was committed in Indiana in the USA.
And, he called on the US administration to “be more proactive with us on this matter of illicit firearms exported from the USA.”
As part of the fight against the entry of illegal guns, Dr Gonsalves said the government will be ramping up its border patrols on land and sea.
The government also intends to buy scanners for the two main ports and for the Argyle International Airport.
As a result of a meeting he had with the police high command on Saturday, February 11, Dr Gonsalves promised that operational plans are now being executed.
“I assure the citizens of our country that this is an issue of the highest priority for the government.”
He said he is also awaiting advice from a security expert on additional actions to be taken in relation to illegal guns.
Officers of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines are working closely with regional and international counterparts to stamp out the illegal gun trade, he assured.
“No stone must be left unturned in these respects.
“The country demands the highest level of professionalism and commitment from our police officers in the fight against crime, including the serious crime of homicide,” the Prime Minister stressed.